Here's what the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard sounds like

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2020
Apple has released the 16-inch MacBook Pro to the world, after almost a year of rumors. The most obvious changes are how the keyboard feels, and what the machine sounds like in use.

Comparing the 2019 16-Inch MacBook Pro (right) keybaord against the Mid-2019 15-Inch MacBook Pro keyboard
Comparing the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro (right) keyboard against the Mid-2019 15-inch MacBook Pro keybaord

Apple's new MacBook Pro Keyboard

Keyboards are highly subjective. So highly subjective, that computer manufacturers have produced hundreds if not thousands of different key switches, all with different performance characteristics.

So, a little context is important. We're not giant fans of typing on glass, like the iPad. We didn't have a problem with the keyboard that was introduced with the 2016 MacBook Pro -- but it wasn't a favorite of ours.

We get that the 2016 design, and iterations, are polarizing. Where the 2012 through 2015 design had the entire expression of keyboard like and hate, the 2016 through 2019 MacBook Pro weighed more heavily on the "it'll do" to "this is terrible" range.






In regards to reliability, across the entire staff, exactly one unit had to be replaced. We had the same failure rate with the 2012 through 2015 keyboard. And, the data we've been collecting on the 2018 model and the mid-2019 refresh suggests that whatever Apple did for reliability is working, with it having an equivalent failure rate in the first year to the 2012 through 2015 design.

The new 16-Inch MacBook Pro has slightly more key travel than the previous generation
The new 16-Inch MacBook Pro has slightly more key travel than the previous generation


Looking forward, the key actuation on the 16-inch MacBook Pro is punctuated by a soft click, most similar to the mid-2019 noise versus any other, if a bit quieter. Where the 2015 design noise was more from the key bottoming out the switch, if you press slowly, you can feel where the click is on the new computer, before hitting the bottom of the chamber. Gone is the clackety-clack of the original 2016 MacBook Pro keyboard, and you'll never mistake this keyboard for a desktop mechanical model.

There is more sensory data on the keys in the video that accompanies this piece. But, here are the numbers -- the key travel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is one millimeter. This is in comparison to between 0.6 millimeters and 0.7 millimeters on the 2016-style keyboard, and between 1.2 millimeters and 1.5 millimeters on the 2012 through 2015 style.

Typing on the updated 16-Inch MacBook Pro keyboard
Typing on the updated 16-Inch MacBook Pro keyboard


In our testing, we had a baseline of 38 DBa of ambient noise measured with a Kanomax model 4431 meter, with the test gear at head height and distance. Typing on the 2016 MacBook Pro with no other CPU load brought that up to about 43 DBa. The highest we could manage on the 16-inch MacBook Pro with a particularly angry bout of random key-mashing was 40 DBa. Quieter indeed.

With that 2016 redesign, Apple made a big deal about key stability being an underpinning of the design. In short, the new keyboard has more key travel than the 2016, but less than the 2012. Whatever Apple did for key stability in the 2016 was moved to the 16-inch MacBook Pro -- and this is a good thing.

And, Apple tells us that individual keys can be replaced. We didn't get any information on what this entails, but at this juncture, it still looks like a complete disassembly is required to do so.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a new cooling system, and it sounds different

Apple says that the new MacBook Pro has a completely redesigned cooling system, with different fan blades and more surface area in heat exchanging surfaces. This means that the computer sounds different under load.

Strictly from a noise standpoint, in the same 38 DBA room, the 2016 MacBook Pro under heavy load is about 45 DBa at the same range that we did the keyboard testing. The 16-inch MacBook Pro hit a maximum of 44 DBa, with equivalent fan speeds to the 2016 model.

The MacBook Pro for the last seven years has sounded about the same. It's hard to describe how it sounds now, but there is a lower pitch and a different warble to the fans now, likely because of the new blade shape. You'll notice the difference if you're a long-time user, but it isn't distracting, and you'll forget the old sound pretty quickly.

The updated keyboard includes a physical escape key
The updated keyboard includes a physical escape key


We've only just started testing thermal performance. Our initial testing suggests that the 16-inch MacBook Pro can maintain a higher clock speed for longer -- which isn't well-reflected in benchmark testing to date.

The fans on the new MacBook Pro start to get audible in that 38 DBa office environment at about 83C processor temperature. Based on observation, they start to pick up speed at about a 75C CPU temperature. a bit earlier than the 80C that the 2016 through 2019 MacBook Pro start to ramp up. We'll be testing this more in the future.

The efficacy of this thermal re-design in regards to your workflow will vary very much depending on your individual workload. But -- using a utility that turns off the boost feature on the processor essentially guarantees a silent machine with next to no fan noise, at a cost of taking about one and a half times longer to complete your job. We'll be talking about this in the future too.

Save hundreds on the 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple resellers are accepting orders for the new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a variety of incentives. Expercom is knocking up to $438 off select new configurations with coupon code appleinsider, while Adorama is taking up to $250 off retail models with promo code APINSIDER (prices start at just $2,199 with code). Details can be found in this 16-inch MacBook Pro deal roundup.

Meanwhile, at B&H, shoppers can save $100 on the retail systems and select between no interest financing when paid in full within 12 months with the B&H Financing Card or a sales tax refund in eligible states with its Payboo Credit Card. The latter can save many shoppers anywhere from $200 to $500 on average.

Amazon is also offering instant discounts on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, matching B&H with prices as low as $2,299.

Be sure to check out the AppleInsider 16-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide for the latest deals and product availability on Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro hardware.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,278member
    Is the 16" any wider in dimensions?

    Looks like the trackpad is the same size isn't it?
  • Reply 2 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,831administrator
    DuhSesame said:
    Is the 16" any wider in dimensions?

    Looks like the trackpad is the same size isn't it?
    It is a bit, but not by a lot. It is smaller than the 2015.
    cy_starkman
  • Reply 3 of 16
    DuhSesame said:
    Is the 16" any wider in dimensions?

    Looks like the trackpad is the same size isn't it?
    I think it’s bigger in all dimensions- slightly wider, deeper and ever so slightly thicker. Probably closer in size to the older pre-late 2016 MBP.
    edited November 2019
  • Reply 4 of 16
    sc_marktsc_markt Posts: 1,401member
    Can you compare the speaker sound from an old MBP to this one?
    cornchipphilboogie
  • Reply 5 of 16
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,905member

    There is more sensory data on the keys in the video that accompanies this piece. But, here are the numbers -- the key travel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is one millimeter. This is in comparison to between 0.6 millimeters and 0.7 millimeters on the 2016-style keyboard, and between 1.2 millimeters and 1.5 millimeters on the 2012 through 2015 style.
    This isn't accurate - I measured the key travel on my 2017 MBP yesterday with a micrometer and the key travel is between 0.3 and 0.45 mm, or about half what you quote. You can actually see the difference in the pictures you post.

    Also, you can't really comment on the reliability yet. You can absolutely say the scissors mechanism has been more reliable in the past, but there is no way to judge the reliability of a design that has just been released. Either way, being able to service individual keys is a huge improvement over the past design. 
    edited November 2019 d_2henrybayphilboogieGeorgeBMacshrave10
  • Reply 6 of 16
    it is crazy to say, but yes, the keyboard (and sdxc slot) is what has been the main reason i have not upgraded.

    they seem like the smallest reasons, but the butterfly was so damn noisy, like it was being bashed all the time.. and when you use something for maybe 10hrs a day it can’t be like that.

    i also use the sd slot all the time, as a built in secondary drive for time machine and itunes. so now i am looking for some kind of thin usb3 to sdxc dock thing that sits flush off the mac

    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 16
    I love your videos, but please learn to articulate!
  • Reply 8 of 16
    The difference in size does only matter for one thing: search for a new case. Else I couldn’t care less about a few mm more. :smile: 

    Else I think the Screen bezels look asymmetrical now, which looks strange at the upper corners but ok. 

    Why is Wifi 6 not ready for prime time and no UWB? Hmmm. 

    The internal thermal upgrade is MUCH appreciated. :smiley: 
    viclauyyc
  • Reply 9 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,831administrator
    MplsP said:

    There is more sensory data on the keys in the video that accompanies this piece. But, here are the numbers -- the key travel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is one millimeter. This is in comparison to between 0.6 millimeters and 0.7 millimeters on the 2016-style keyboard, and between 1.2 millimeters and 1.5 millimeters on the 2012 through 2015 style.
    This isn't accurate - I measured the key travel on my 2017 MBP yesterday with a micrometer and the key travel is between 0.3 and 0.45 mm, or about half what you quote. You can actually see the difference in the pictures you post.

    Also, you can't really comment on the reliability yet. You can absolutely say the scissors mechanism has been more reliable in the past, but there is no way to judge the reliability of a design that has just been released. Either way, being able to service individual keys is a huge improvement over the past design. 
    We didn't say anything about the 16-inch. The reliability comment was about the 2019 15-inch and 2018, which we do have enough data to talk about. And the measurement is absolutely accurate. We measured three machines, and Apple's service spec is 0.6mm plus or minus a bit. I suspect it may vary by manufacturing batch and keyboard generation, though.

    On that note, I bid you all adieu for 10 days. Be good.
    edited November 2019 SoliStrangeDaysGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 10 of 16
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,905member
    MplsP said:

    There is more sensory data on the keys in the video that accompanies this piece. But, here are the numbers -- the key travel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is one millimeter. This is in comparison to between 0.6 millimeters and 0.7 millimeters on the 2016-style keyboard, and between 1.2 millimeters and 1.5 millimeters on the 2012 through 2015 style.
    This isn't accurate - I measured the key travel on my 2017 MBP yesterday with a micrometer and the key travel is between 0.3 and 0.45 mm, or about half what you quote. You can actually see the difference in the pictures you post.

    Also, you can't really comment on the reliability yet. You can absolutely say the scissors mechanism has been more reliable in the past, but there is no way to judge the reliability of a design that has just been released. Either way, being able to service individual keys is a huge improvement over the past design. 
    We didn't say anything about the 16-inch. The reliability comment was about the 2019 15-inch and 2018, which we do have enough data to talk about. And the measurement is absolutely accurate. We measured three machines, and Apple's service spec is 0.6mm plus or minus a bit. I suspect it may vary by manufacturing batch and keyboard generation, though.

    On that note, I bid you all adieu for 10 days. Be good.
    Sorry - when I watched the video it sounded like you were talking abut the reliability of the 16" 

    As for the key travel, I haven't measured other machines, but I did measure 3-4 different keys on my machine and none of them had more than 0.45mm travel. I've seen other reports with similar numbers, so my machine must be 25-50% out of spec. (I tried looking up those specs and came up with nothing so I'll take your word for it.)

    When talking about reliability on the 2018/19 15" MBPs I have to take it with a grain of salt. The keyboard on my 2017 has never irreparably broken, but at least a couple times a week debris causes keys to start sticking and make them close to unusable. So far I've always managed to get the key working again, so technically the keyboard has never broken. Has it given me repeated issues that compromise the use and experience? Absolutely.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    Can AI post price information in Canada too?

    what I noticed so far is even Apple Store in canada sell MBP the same price as US on sale price. Can AI confirm this?
  • Reply 12 of 16
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,902member
    No need to beat the butterfly dead horse. Now, instead of debating key travel on old scissor,butterfly and magic keyboard or what should be correct travel distance; just go and try out 16" MBP keyboard and leave reliability discussion for future, Apple put magic keyboard after lots of work, in process fading away ill feeling of butterfly keyboard.
    I liked it. Seems right key travel whether typed fast or slow. Sound of key press, don't care. Seems little louder than my current butterfly MBP.

    Soli
  • Reply 13 of 16
    I'm glad the physical ESC key is back.  I keep accidentally touching the virtual ESC on my 2018 MBP when I unconsciously rest my fingers on the keyboard.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 14 of 16
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,278member
    MplsP said:

    There is more sensory data on the keys in the video that accompanies this piece. But, here are the numbers -- the key travel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is one millimeter. This is in comparison to between 0.6 millimeters and 0.7 millimeters on the 2016-style keyboard, and between 1.2 millimeters and 1.5 millimeters on the 2012 through 2015 style.
    This isn't accurate - I measured the key travel on my 2017 MBP yesterday with a micrometer and the key travel is between 0.3 and 0.45 mm, or about half what you quote. You can actually see the difference in the pictures you post.

    Also, you can't really comment on the reliability yet. You can absolutely say the scissors mechanism has been more reliable in the past, but there is no way to judge the reliability of a design that has just been released. Either way, being able to service individual keys is a huge improvement over the past design. 
    We didn't say anything about the 16-inch. The reliability comment was about the 2019 15-inch and 2018, which we do have enough data to talk about. And the measurement is absolutely accurate. We measured three machines, and Apple's service spec is 0.6mm plus or minus a bit. I suspect it may vary by manufacturing batch and keyboard generation, though.

    On that note, I bid you all adieu for 10 days. Be good.
    The 16" have slightly smaller keycaps, aren't they?  IIRC the Magic Keyboard does and looks like it from the picture.
    edited November 2019
  • Reply 15 of 16
    The 16" looks like a real winner. Hopefully we see the same on down the line and a slight price drop on the 13" with 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM since it now costs more than the base 16".
  • Reply 16 of 16
    Enough about the keyboard¡

    I'm just happy they didn't return to VAG Rounded  :)
     
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